Finance Consumer Many unhappy non-returns? Then you’re an online shopper wasting a small fortune every year

Many unhappy non-returns? Then you’re an online shopper wasting a small fortune every year

Online shoppers are wasting money on items they don't want, research shows. Photo: Getty
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Online shopping allows consumers to browse and buy from the comfort of their own homes. But that convenience is costing us, research shows.

Australian shoppers are wasting up to $384 a year by failing to return unwanted online purchases, a study by ME Bank has found.

ME surveyed 1000 Australian adults and found that the majority aren’t always returning their unwanted online purchases.

Almost three-quarters (70 per cent) of those surveyed admitted to having not returned an online purchase that wasn’t quite right, whether it be the wrong size, fit, poor quality, or simply unwanted.

Commissioned to explore the potential cost of online returns behaviour, the survey found that Australians typically want to return an average of four online purchases each year.

With $96 reported as the average spend per online purchase, the potential annual loss of not returning items which you never intend to use is $384 a year – equivalent to return flights for a holiday, a new vacuum cleaner or the cost of a daily coffee for four months.

Australians wasting money on unwanted online purchases need to “recognise that online shopping’s quite different to physical shopping and modify behaviour accordingly”, ME money expert Matthew Read said.

“It’s important to consider the online shopping experience as a whole, with returns making up a significant part of the process. It’s not over when you get your item; what you choose to do with the item at that point is a deciding factor between a healthy or hurt hip-pocket,” he said.

Online shopping’s “ease and convenience” is a double-edged sword as it lends itself to “spontaneous” and impulse purchases.

“Every technology has a benefit, but there’s also a danger, and online shopping is the same. With convenience comes the increased chance that you’ll waste money,” Mr Read said.

Key to avoiding wasting cash on unwanted items is to acknowledge the potential pitfalls of online shopping and adopt some simple measures, Mr Read said.

These include:

  • ‘Sense checking’ what you’re buying and when you’re buying it. Asking ‘is this really something I need, and is it in the budget?’
  • Delaying the purchase: sleep on it for a night before you buy
  • Check the returns policy: know what you’re entitled to and how much returning an item will cost
  • Remember the transaction isn’t over until you receive the item and make a final decision

Unlike physical shopping where shoppers have “committed” themselves “to a degree” once leaving the store, an online purchase is “very much an open transaction” until after the item has been delivered to the purchaser, Mr Read said.

“You have to have the mindset that the transaction isn’t over until you get the item and then make the decision if you want it,” Mr Read said.

“It can be tempting to let it slide ‘this time’ and choose not to return a low-cost online purchase, but if you’re like most online shoppers, chances are it’s not a once-off occurrence and the costs add up, fast.”

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